Car trouble always seems to happen at the most inopportune times. You’re already running late for work or school, you hop in your car and turn the key, and nothing. Your bad morning just got a lot worse because of your car not starting. You probably already have visions of huge auto repair bills and going days without your vehicle.
Thankfully, there are some common reasons that prevent your car from starting that are not that bad. Some of them can even be diagnosed and fixed by a basic DIY mechanic. Let’s discuss some of those common causes here and what you can do to fix them. With just some basic knowledge and hand tools, you’ll be back on the road in no time!
1. Dead Battery
Probably the most common reason that your car won’t start is because of a dead battery. Your battery dying can be caused by many things, and here are just a few of them. Leaving your lights on, even a small dome light, can drain your car battery. Running your accessories, such as the radio, for too long without the car running will also cause your battery to die. Even if it doesn’t drain your battery completely, even a weak battery can prevent your car from starting if it doesn’t have enough power to turn the engine over.
Batteries also have a usable lifespan, and they die with age. Most batteries are made to last anywhere from 3 to 6 years. Once a battery is past its lifespan, it starts to get weaker. The liquid inside the battery begins to evaporate, and it’s not long before the battery is completely dead. Even when your alternator is recharging your battery properly, the battery simply can no longer hold a charge like it did when it was new, and it will not have the proper amps to be able to crank your car.
If you suspect the battery may be the issue, here are some symptoms to look for. These things usually point to the battery as the culprit:
- Loud clicking noise when turning the key
- Lights won’t work
- Radio won’t work
- Jump starting cranks your car
Notice the last point there – if a jump start allows your car to crank, then you can be almost certain that the battery is dead. Most any auto parts store or repair shop can perform a test on your battery to let you know whether it needs replacing. Corrosion or loose connections on the battery terminals can also present the same symptoms. Take a look and make sure that you don’t need to clean or tighten those connections! Your battery cables should be nice and tight on the battery posts to ensure a good, solid connection.
Battery replacement is usually not a hard task, and many parts stores will install them for free if you purchase a battery from them. The cost of a new battery ranges from $100 – $300 depending on the make and model of your vehicle, so this is not a terribly expensive repair. However, many folks may not have a few hundred dollars laying around for a car repair. In that case, consider selling your car for cash to Auto Wranglers. We always provide free towing, and we’ll put some cash in your pocket so that you can buy yourself a new car and not worry about repairs.
2. Vacuum Leak
No, we’re not talking about the machine that cleans your carpet. When your car runs, a vacuum is created between the mass airflow sensor and the intake manifold on the engine. No air should enter or escape the system here so that your car’s computer knows exactly how much air is entering. This allows the computer to spray the precise amount of fuel that is needed for proper engine performance. Even on older cars without computers, vacuums are created in different parts of the engine for proper operation.
When a leak happens, your engine may experience different symptoms. It may idle low or high, it may stall, or it might not crank at all. A vacuum leak rarely causes a car not to crank at all, although it can happen. More often, it causes the car to stall unless the gas pedal is pressed harder than normal. In some cases, it might even trigger a check engine light or other warning sign.
If you suspect you might have a vacuum leak, you should know that they can be notoriously difficult to track down. Check all the hoses and connections for leaks or obvious signs of a problem. If you can’t find it, then you will likely need to visit a repair shop. They can put a vacuum machine on the lines to help find the leak more quickly. The price to repair it depends largely on how long it takes to find the leak. If they spend hours tracking it down, then you can expect your repair bill to be much larger. In that case, you might be better off just selling your car to Auto Wranglers instead of sinking money into an old junker.
3. Faulty Ignition Switch
When most people hear the words “ignition switch,” they think about the slot into which you place your key to start the car. However, the switch is actually an electrical component inside this slot which allows power to run to the starter and your accessories. This switch basically controls power running to almost everything in your car, including your fuel system and other critical components. It is like the heart of your car’s electrical system.
If you have a bad ignition switch, you could see some serious consequences such as the car stalling while driving. If you suspect this part may be faulty, here are some things to look for. First, have you had any trouble running your car’s accessories such as the lights or radio. If you turn the key to the “On” position without starting your car, the radio and other accessories should power on. If they don’t, it could point to a problem with the switch. The opposite could also signal a switch problem, i.e. if the car won’t start but lights come on.
If you have experienced your car stalling for no apparent reason, this could also be a sign of a faulty ignition system. Like we mentioned, this switch controls power to your fuel pump, so a sudden loss of fuel because your pump turned off will cause the car to stop running. Lastly, if your car doesn’t start when you turn the key, and you’ve verified that the battery is good, then the switch might be to blame.
You can help narrow it down by checking a few other things first. Once you have tested the battery and verified that it’s good, then check for blown fuses next. A blow fuse or bad relay can also cause electrical issues, so eliminate those as potential problems first. If you have no bad fuses, then the ignition is probably the next place to look.
Replacing an ignition switch is a little more involved than a battery or some other issues. It usually requires removing parts of the steering column, which can be dangerous because of the car’s airbag if you don’t know exactly what you’re doing. This job is best left to a professional, and it typically costs anywhere from $200 – $500 including parts and labor. If your car is not worth it, then you may be better off selling that junk car for $500 and putting that money toward a new ride instead of sinking cash into a clunker.
4. Empty Gas Tank
Ok, this one might seem obvious, but sometimes you might not know that your car is out of gas. Perhaps your car has a faulty fuel gauge and you didn’t even realize it. Running your car completely out of gas will definitely cause it not to crank the next time you attempt to go somewhere.
If everything else seems normal, then an empty gas tank might be the culprit. You put the ignition key into place and turn it, and then the engine turns over but won’t start. This could point to your vehicle being totally out of gas. The first, and most obvious, thing to do is take a look at your gauge and see if it reads empty. If it does, then it should be an easy solution. If not, then your gauge may be faulty as well.
Thankfully, the solution to this problem is pretty straightforward. First, simply put more gas into your car. The next part is very important…do not immediately start the vehicle! If your car ran completely out of gas, then there will be air in your fuel lines. To remove this air, you will need to prime the fuel pump before starting the car. Turn your key to the ON position without cranking the engine. Let it sit for about 3 seconds, and then turn the key back to the OFF position. Do this 2-3 times before starting the car so that the fuel lines become filled with fuel and the pump is primed. Now, when you turn the key, the engine cranks, and you should be on your way!
5. Faulty Starter
Nothing will prevent your car from starting faster than a faulty starter. The starter on your car gets power from the battery, and it spins the flywheel quickly to crank your car. When the car starts, the starter disengages from the flywheel so that the starter is not constantly spinning while the car runs. If you simply hear a clicking sound when you turn the key, then the starter may be the cause. A series of rapid clicks usually points to the battery while a single click is most likely the starter. If your car won’t turn over, check the battery first, and then look at the starter.
Your starter has many internal components that can fail such as the starter motor, solenoid, contacts, and brushes. Some of these parts can be purchased separately, but often the whole starter has to be replaced when any of these parts fail. Jumper cables will typically do no good when the starter is the issue. In this case, your batter is supplying enough power, but the starter will not turn. You can attempt to bypass the starter solenoid and supply power directly to the starter motor to determine whether the solenoid is the issue, but this can be dangerous and lead to electrical shock if you don’t know exactly what you’re doing.
Replacing a starter is quite the task for a DIY mechanic as it often involves removing many parts to even access the starter. The part itself usually runs between $100-$200, but the full repair can be over $500 if done at a repair shop. You may be better off selling that old car to Auto Wranglers and putting money in your pocket instead. We buy cars across the United States, and we’ll make you an instant cash offer to buy yours too.
6. Clogged Fuel Filter
Fuel filter problems can have similar symptoms to your gas tank being empty because your engine is getting no fuel in either situation. Fuel filters are designed to filter out tiny particles and contaminants in your gas and prevent them from making their way into your engine. When these particles do get into your engine, they can do damage to cylinder walls and spark plugs.
Unfortunately, there are usually no warning lights associated with a clogged fuel filter. However, you can often see some warning signs if you know what to look for. If you notice your car running rough at idle or sputtering when you press the gas pedal, these are often signs of a clogged filter. Your engine does not run smoothly when it’s not getting the proper amount of fuel into the cylinders. Maybe even your car will crank but not start up.
You should refer to your owner’s manual to determine the precise interval, but most fuel filters need to be replaced every 50,000 miles or so. Just like air filters, they become dirty over time and require replacement at regular intervals. If you’re fairly handy and have some basic tools, you can probably do this yourself. A filter will usually cost you $15-$40, but always be extremely careful when doing this job. You don’t want to pull a fuel line and find yourself covered in gasoline!
If you’re thinking “My car won’t start, now what?!?” then you’ve come to the right place. We’ve outlined many of the most common reasons that your car might not start. Luckily, most of them are pretty straightforward to diagnose and repair, even on your own! However, if you’re not the type who likes to spend more money on your vehicle, then take the easy route and sell it to Auto Wranglers. It only takes a few minutes to get an instant cash offer for your car, and you can have money in your hand within a day or two. Don’t waste all that time trying to figure out what’s wrong with your car. Just give us a call, and we’ll tow it away for free and leave you with cash in your pocket!